My boycott dilemma – and why it’s not always black and white with Newcastle

SUPPORT ... Newcastle United fans.
SUPPORT ... Newcastle United fans.

MY first game watching Newcastle United live was Kevin Keegan’s testimonial.

May 17, 1984.

I was seven. Young and impressionable. I genuinely believed that every game ended with a helicopter coming down on the pitch and carrying players off into the sunset.

(I still think it should happen, though not to a hero’s reception, more to whisk away some of the crap)

Football matches since have never quite lived up to that first experience. For years, every time a police helicopter flew over St James’s Park during a game, fans would point and cry out that Keegan was returning. Often, it was more entertaining and preferable to watching what was being served up on the pitch.

But I was hooked. As a kid, I pleaded with my dad to let me go to more games and every now and again, he’d relent, though in the main I was confined to listening to Charles Harrison on Metro Radio for goal updates throughout a Saturday afternoon.

OWNER ... Mike Ashley.

OWNER ... Mike Ashley.

When, in 1990, when my grandad died after a battle with cancer, I took over his season ticket, the one he’d had with my dad since the 60s. It was an exhilarating feeling, even if watching the likes of Kevin Dillon and Scott Sloan wasn’t always.

Matchdays were a ritual. Leave home at 1, encamp to the Novo Castria Social Club where my dad would meet his pals, sitting in the same seats in the same corner that they had for years, buying three lots of drinks in one because the queue for the bar was so long it often snaked outside.

Then a quick stroll down to the ground, round to the East Stand and in through lucky turnstile 40 in hope and excitement.

Some things remain the same, but plenty has changed.

There are plenty examples of loveless marriages, where parents stay together for the sake of the kids, unhappy and miserable but putting on a brave face.

The Novo, once sat in the shadows of St James’s, is long gone but he’s still in the same seat, my old man, as are half the people around him.

My grandad’s old seat, passed down to me, is also still in the family, though now it’s shared by my brother, and occasionally myself or my 11-year-old son.

The ritual has changed and slowly, so has the hope and excitement for many, myself included.

But not my 68-year-old dad, and now – also – not for my son, Cole.

Every season since he watched Newcastle beat Sunderland 2-0 on the day he turned six, he’s gone to the home game closest to his birthday.

He turns 12 on Monday.

My dad can’t make the game against Tottenham on Sunday. He’s asked if I can go and take Cole.

It would be this game, wouldn’t it?

Here’s the rub. Colours nailed to the mast. I’m pro-boycott.

There’s been thousands of words written and spoken about the reasons why fans should stay away that it doesn’t need my two penneth added, suffice to say that eventually there has to be a line drawn in the sand, and in my opinion, that time has come.

Fans are falling out of love with a club who doesn’t seem to care whether there’s any passion left or not. If this is the best chance they can see of rescuing the relationship then they should give it a go.

It may be their only chance.

But but but.

There are plenty examples of loveless marriages, where parents stay together for the sake of the kids, unhappy and miserable but putting on a brave face.

If the relationship is without offspring, divorce and separation is so easier to contemplate.

So...

Is it fair for me to put my Newcastle negativity on to my son?

Or should I be treating the situation as my dad did back in 1990-91 when factions were fighting for control at St James’s as John Hall’s Magpie Group sought to wrestle control from the unpopular Gordon McKeag, protecting my son from it, not letting him suffer and miss out on something he really wants to do?

For his birthday!

Try boycotting Sports Direct when you’ve got kids who need football boots, trainers, tracksuits, strips.

Try telling them they can’t have a replica strip like their pals because you’re uncomfortable with the sponsor’s logo on the front.

I’ve got several friends who will be attending, with their children, the match tomorrow. It’s still their father-son bonding time.

The kids of today are the fans of tomorrow. Call Social Services or Childline if you want, but I want my lad to grow up with the passion and love for his team, and I know that many people feel the same.

Yes, we’d all love to be able to show our kids the value of principles by which they should live their lives, but any mam or dad out there knows it isn’t that straightforward.

Rarely is anything with Newcastle United ever black and white.